Coffee House

Labour goes after Cameron over TV debates

29 April 2014

A smart move by Ed Miliband today to put pressure on David Cameron over the televised leaders’ debates next year. Every time the Prime Minister is asked about these debates, he makes supportive noises while muttering about the ‘right formula’, but doesn’t commit to anything. He has also said that he felt the debates ‘dominated’ the coverage of the 2010 election, which is as close as he’ll come to saying that Nick Clegg’s shiny new qualities at the time rather detracted from Cameron’s own appeal which his strategists had been setting so much store by.

But as the Prime Minister hasn’t agreed to anything, Labour’s trying to get ahead of the game and appear to drag Cameron into a studio. In an article for the Radio Times, the Labour leader argues that negotiations on the debates should start now. He also sent Michael Dugher out to bat on the Today programme, where he put in an impressive performance. He said:

‘Ed Miliband has appointed me to lead the negotiations for Labour, I’m pretty free all day. We could start this afternoon, I’ll put it in the diary if CCHQ are really keen to get on with it. But the truth is – and the broadcasters know this as well – that they are prevaricating, they are putting this off, because the truth is David Cameron doesn’t want to get on with the TV debates. And frankly, they’re called the prime ministerial debates but they should never be in the gift of the incumbent prime minister – they actually belong to the public.’


Bravo to Labour, who know they have the less polished performer in Ed Miliband. But they are also betting on that Flashman temper sending a few of the PM’s volleys into the net during the debates, and a possible complacency on Cameron’s part that Miliband is weird and easy to knock down.

P.S. Number 10 sources suggest Labour is trying to distract from the GDP figures by talking about the debates. It’s certainly easier to do so than for Labour to talk about economic recovery. But until Cameron knocks on Michael Dugher’s door, the Opposition will be able to dig out the debates every time the ONS puts out a good statistical release.

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  • McRobbie

    Why do we have to have a public becomes a race to show face and not a race to prove ability. The media would however go ballistic if the decision was no debate as it fills papers and TV time and the media can talk about it for months, but it does not show who can actually run our country. Policies show that, labour has none but spending bankers bonuses over and over again, lib dem have even less with their mansion tax and UKIP just want out of europe and thats it. At least the tories have shown they can improve our economy..and it should always be the economy stupid that decides elections.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Yes, there have to be debates. Cameron can’t weasel out. Why Miliband would want to parade his alienness is a mystery to me, he has nothing to gain.

    The criterion for inclusion of a party leader should be some number of candidates. Any party putting up candidates nationally has a right to be heard and indeed to be scrutinised by its opponents.

    • Kitty MLB

      Does that includes the Green Party and Respect they both actually have seats
      in parliament. Have you seen the way they handle such debates in some parts of Europe
      its a utter nonsense, they all start fighting with each other, avoid questions,
      pander to the TV audience with utter fakery and nothing with any substance gets mentioned. Its not the X factor, popularity contest, as Phil said,
      its about choosing your next government.

      • Rhoda Klapp8

        It is not about somebody disqualifying a party because of failure to meet their preconceived idea of acceptability. If they put up the candidates on a sufficient scale they should get the access to the same coverage. A PPB or any debate of leaders. You are picking a government, you are picking an MP, and you are entitled to know what his party stands for from its own mouth. The actual format of any debate is not part of my argument. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t a farce.

  • Inverted Meniscus

    Absolutely incredible. A politician conducts a piece of tactical political chicanery and an idiot journalist reports it as if it is some kind of useful practical achievement that will somehow benefit the nation. It is not; it is just a bit of petty manoeuvring by an utterly preposterous individual who has never had a useful, prosperity creating thought, let alone idea, in his ridiculous posturing life.

    • Greenslime

      Isabel, once again, showing that she doesn’t get out much. What a lightweight!

      • Inverted Meniscus

        And she gets paid for being this stupid. Incredible.

        • Chingford Man

          I sometimes read Speccie posts and wonder if Lynton’s spinning efforts would be much different.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Fair comment.

  • Kitty MLB

    You mention Flashman. Ed’s allusion of Flashman won’t have registered with Labours
    tribal voters more interested in the x factor then books, besides its about Englishness
    and Ed Miliband would not understand that.
    It is said that Flashman is one of Britain’s great literary hero’s, I have read :
    If it were not for him Britain would have lost India a hundred years earlier,
    WW1 would have started decades earlier, the Koh- I- Noor would not have been stolen, the Sikhs would have won on the Sutlej and the Charge of the Light Brigade
    wouldn’t have happened– I read that a few years ago..
    Yet from Ed Miliband, we get self- pity whinging, pitiful class war and dullness, he has the charisma of a amoeba and utterly charmless.

    • Shazza

      Yes Kitty but unfortunately the politics of envy always comes up trumps for those addicted to the welfare teat, sense of entitlement and inbred hatred for those who succeed in life through hard work. I often wonder how these leeches would feel if after they had won large on the lottery, they would have to part with 50% to the taxman as they want the people who actually work hard and create wealth and jobs to do.

      • saffrin

        I doubt there is any similarity between Labour’s tribal voters and the Labour party’s efforts to create a hatred for the successful.
        I suspect Labour’s tribal voters will be more influenced by the hypocrisy of those that waste our taxes then hide their misbegotten fortunes offshore from HMRC.
        Tony Bliar and Gordon Brown for example. With Tony Bliar going to the extent of getting Irish citizenship for his children in order to escape inheritance taxes.

        • Shazza

          I didn’t know about the Irish citizenship – can you provide a link?
          The sheer hypocrisy of the Left is matched only by their hubris and authoritarianism.

  • JoeDM

    Farage MUST be involved if the debates go ahead.

    • Kitty MLB

      I like Farage but its about choosing your next Prime Minister and Government.
      Nigel Farage said his party is still growing ( I wish it would hurry up) Do they
      have the ability in terms of policies and experienced politicians to form a coalition with one of the larger parties- I am not having a dig, its a serious question.

      • WatTylersGhost

        Did you object to Clegg debating 4 years ago?

        • Kitty MLB

          No, but they do have seats ( unfortunately) they are actually
          a descendant of one of the
          oldest established party’s so Clegg saying a ‘ new party’
          was utter deceptive balderdash. And they have been in coalitions before. But I hope never again, they put party before
          country and blackmailed the UK for their own personal gain.
          Utterly treacherous, treasonous and despicable.

          • Smithersjones2013

            You really are in favour of maintaining the closed shop of the establishment ruling classes aren’t you? How do new parties get the experience you bang on about if at every turn people like you keep shutting the door on them and making it nigh on impossible for them to get elected?

            its no wonder our establishment parties are so arrogant, complacent and slovenly when they are protected by people who are so risk averse

          • CharlietheChump

            Liberal participation previously led to humiliating semi-extinction. Looking forward to that happening again.

      • saffrin

        “It’s about choosing your next Prime Minister and Government.”
        Is that some kind of LibLabCon joke?

        The next coalition, assuming UKIP doesn’t win the 2015 General Election outright, will be Labour/Tory…for a short while at least, until enough ex-Tory MP’s, remembering their history, walk across the floor and join Nigel Farage as he takes back our self-determination and sovereignty.

        • Kitty MLB

          Well what do you suppose those debates just before an election are about. Afternoon tea with the vicar.
          I Admire Nigel Farage immensely, but even he says he is still
          growing as a party. I know he’s a knight of the realm, speaks
          for England against the evils of The EU and a honourable
          chap who loves this country. And will grow a big ‘ peoples army’
          made up of Labour voters. But not to even aim for a seat, the possibility of a coalition, to be First Minister of the Queen
          with a majority he will need to be superman, and the first
          person to have done that. Go Nigel Go !!!!

          • saffrin

            They might as well be about afternoon tea as we all know the LibLabCon have nothing to differentiate themselves with enough to debate.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …but that tack has its admirers, as we clearly see.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Incorrect and Irrelevant. Incorrect in that we are not selecting a Prime Minister we are selecting a party of government (party leaders are chosen and can be removed at any time by their party without the electorate’s permission – Thatcher, Blair etc). The parties choose the Prime Minister.

        UKIP put forward more than enough candidates that if successful would form a majority and therefore should be included in the debates. Similarly so should any other parties (e.g. the Greens and Libdems) who put forward the requisite number of candidates to make it possible for them to form a government. After all on your criteria Clegg would have been (wrongly) excluded.

        This is about providing the electorate with the best possible exposure of all serious parties and not about protecting the closed shop of our failed ruling class establishment parties who are only supported by around 35% of eligible voting population.

        To answer your last question. The Tories had almost 100 new members elected in 2010, none of which as far as I am aware had previous experience of national level politics. In fact the only experience Louise Mensch for example had was being an ex-wild child chic lit writing 3rd tier celebrity.. Using the ,experience’ card is probably the most futile of diversions

      • CharlietheChump

        No fun without Nige.

  • david trant

    There will only be one question dominating the argument over the debates yes or no will not be it, it will be should Farage be there? After Clegg’s miscalculation pretty unlikely I would thought.

  • @PhilKean1

    Oh, and any party leader polling over ten points should be included in the debates if they happen.

    But if they include Cleg, who, in theory, isn’t likely to be Prime Minister, then they should also include Nigel Farage.

    After all, Nigel is increasingly becoming the voice of the British people.

  • @PhilKean1

    They should never have happened. But Cameron stupidly opened the door.

    And now that door can’t be closed.

    Imagine the madness where 13 catastrophic years of Labour’s maladministration could have been disregarded by a largely politically-ignorant electorate on the strength of a couple of good TV performances by Gordon Brown.

    Thanks, David Cameron, for making our sacred political system akin to playing a slot machine inside a circus tent.

    • Kitty MLB

      Well said Phil, this is about choosing a government to run a country and future
      Prime Minister not some cheap American style, X factor popularity contest.
      I saw the American debates, the presenters had their own agenda’s , questions were clearly aimed at showing Obama in the best light ( and even he stumbled ) It was a shambolic reality show, but not about reality in the slightest. And lest we forget Nickie Clegg and his ‘ New Politics’ that
      shambolic forum allowed him to have a voice. And we saw how that voice
      faded away when he was up against Nigel Farage.

      • Shazza

        “…the presenters had their own agendas”

        Kitty you are spot on here. This is exactly what will happen should Cameron be stupid enough to engage in these debates again. Sky/BBC and their rabid lefwingers Dimbleby/Boulton etc. will pull out all stops to paint Milliband in a good light – the working class’s New Best Friend and Cameron as ‘out of touch’ ‘bankers’ friend’ etc. It will be the kiss of death for Cameron

        If Clegg had not been allowed to debate at the last election, Cameron would have got a majority. I hope Clegg and his backstabbing party are annihilated in the EU elections and that he loses his seat in 2015.

        • HenryWood

          Clegg probably hopes to lose his seat in 2015 so that he can climb back onboard the EU gravy train.

      • @PhilKean1

        You object to Farage being included in the debates?

        So you want the 3 consensus parties to continue dominating the political arena – even though Clegg can’t become PM, the Liberals are polling less than UKIP, but they will receive better results due to the vagaries of the voting system?

        • Kitty MLB

          I object to Labour even existing and I object to the fact that
          Cameron turned the once honourable party of Thatcher into
          a Leftie leaning back end of a ghastly Lib Dem led pantomime
          coalition horse.
          I do not object to Nigel Farage, this country needs more choice ,and he needs to replace Labour and speak up for the
          working classes who do not have a party anymore.
          But is Nigel Farage ready and able to be Prime Minister next
          May, because those are the words that David Dimbleby will
          use. Does he wish no longer to be a MEP, I thought Nigel
          Farage was determined to also be our voice in Europe.
          Can he do that, if he were part of the establishment,
          and there is that issue with him not having a seat yet.

          • @PhilKean1

            He’s more able to be PM than the other 3.

            And besides, you have just highlighted how the PM debates has turned this into a Presidential style of campaign instead of what it should be about, the incumbent political party’s record, and the challenging parties’ manifestos.

  • Reconstruct

    ‘An article in the Radio Times’.

    Says it all, really.

    • ButcombeMan

      Does the “Radio Times” still exist? I am amazed.

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